Strategic Voting 101

By Jessica Edgson

Pic: Sean William Messham

What do the ANC, Cope, the IFP and the DA all have in common? No, this is not a lame joke. The answer is that they are the four leading parties campaigning for our votes. Yes, it is election time and on 22 April, South Africans will be exercising their democratic right by voting. The question is, though, who to vote for? Strategic voting is one way in which to choose. This is when you vote for one of the popular political parties you agree with the most, bearing in mind that a smaller party, even though you may fully support their principles, has less chance of succeeding on a national level.

Strategic voting may be considered undemocratic, but it can defend a democracy. In order to prevent a party from obtaining excessive power, one could vote for the opposition and increase the oppositional seats in parliament. Some think that this may be the case for South Africa.

There is, however, still a lot of criticism regarding strategic voting, as it does not allow for growth in smaller political parties (such as the Independent Democrats). Dr Thabisi Hoene, from the Rhodes Politics Department, says that strategic voting is unprincipled and undemocratic. “Indeed,” says Hoeane, “strategic voting is based on short-term motives with no long-term benefits for entrenching democracy.” A big problem, he believes, is that “after the dust has settled, these unprincipled voters would find that the party they have [voted] for will pursue its own policies, not their own, after they have got rid of their ‘common enemy’.”

Strategic voting has both its critics and supporters, all claiming to defend South Africa’s young democracy. The basis of democracy is in a free and fair election, therefore it is most important that you vote. Who you vote for and how you decide is your business. Happy voting!


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